Adult colouring craze poses headache for crayon makers

Colouring books for grown-ups may be the new lifestyle craze, promising ways to combat stress, unleash our creative spirit and generally take time out from our increasingly tech-frazzled, gadget-obsessed lives.

See Full Article

But for the makers of crayons and colour pencils, the trend also poses a fundamental strategic question: is the current boom in demand just a passing fad or is it a new sustainable trend?

"I dream about crayons at night," says Andreas Martin, who manages a factory of the manufacturer Staedtler in Nuremberg, southern Germany.

Staedtler is a small family-run firm employing a workforce of around 2,000 and has seen demand for some of its coloured pencils explode, more or less overnight.

"These are models we've been making for years and demand always chugged along unspectacularly," Martin said.

"But then all of a sudden, we weren't able to manufacture enough. It's incredible."

Just behind him, a machine spits out yellow ink pens at a rate of around 6,000 per hour. Another next to it is currently programmed to produce orange ones.

On the next floor down, finished crayons in a kaleidoscope of different colours are packed into boxes of 20 or 36 for shipping to the United States, Britain or South Korea.

Those are the countries at the centre of the current adult colouring craze, said Staedtler chief, Axel Marx.

In the USA, nine colouring books are currently among the top 20 best-selling products on Amazon.

A slice of the cake

Gradually "we're seeing a similar development in European countries, too," said Horst Brinkmann, head of marketing and sales at rival Stabilo Schwan, which makes fluorescent marker pens and coloured pencils as well.

All the players in the sector are keen to get a slice of the cake. Stabilo has launched a set of crayons and book with spring motifs. Swiss upmarket maker Caran d'Ache has published its own colouring book of Alpine scenes.

Without revealing any figures, Brinkmann said Stabilo's sales of crayons had risen by more than 10 percent while the colouring craze enabled Staedtler to lift its sales by 14 percent last year to 322 million euros ($350 million).

"That's remarkable, in this age of digitalisation," said Marx.

But the hype also constitutes something of a headache for factory chief Martin.

"No-one knows how long it will last," he admits.

"We need to strike a balance", so as to know much to sensibly invest to be able to ride the wave, while still keeping in mind that the trend could vanish as quickly as it started.

"At the moment, we're making use of adjustable working hours," adding shifts, say, at night or on Saturday mornings. In addition to the 350 regular employees, the factory had taken on around 30 temporary workers.

But ultimately, the decision is whether to invest the 300,000 euros needed for a new machine.

Fundamental trend?

Staedtler is ready to stump up the cash, with the hope that "if the market falls again, we can use the machines for different types of products," Martin said.

But rival makers are betting on the durability of the new trend.

At Caran d'Ache, "we have invested in production equipment and extended working hours," said president Carole Hubscher.

The company sets great store by being a "Swiss Made" brand and "there is no question of relocating to boost production," she said.

Hubscher is convinced that writing and drawing "won't disappear."

And "our growth targets are not solely built on trends," she argued.

Stabilo's Brinkmann insisted that adult colouring "is part of a fundamental and universal trend towards slowing down."

Nevertheless, "it's important to continue to innovate in this area" to maintain market momentum, he said, pointing to the new "fashion within a fashion" of "Zentangling" or drawing images using structured patterns.

Staedtler chief Marx is more fatalistic, saying that a trend such as colouring is not predictable.

"But we're keeping our fingers crossed that it'll continue," he said.



Advertisements

Latest Economic News

  • Asian stocks rise after Wall Street gain

    Economic CTV News
    BEIJING - Asian stocks rose Wednesday after Wall Street hit new highs ahead of the two-day U.S. break for the Thanksgiving holiday. KEEPING SCORE: The Shanghai Composite Index rose 0.5 per cent to 3,427.66 and Tokyo's Nikkei 225 gained 0.7 per cent to 22,579.18. Source
  • Uber admits covering up 2016 hack that affected millions

    Economic CBC News
    Uber is coming clean about its coverup of a year-old hacking attack that stole personal information about more than 57 million of the beleaguered ride-hailing service's customers and drivers. The revelation Tuesday marks the latest stain on Uber's reputation. Source
  • Uber reveals coverup of hack affecting 57M riders worldwide

    Economic CTV News
    SAN FRANCISCO - Uber is coming clean about its coverup of a year-old hacking attack that stole personal information about more than 57 million of the beleaguered ride-hailing service's customers and drivers. The revelation Tuesday marks the latest stain on Uber's reputation. Source
  • Cheesecake Factory opens 1st Canadian location in Toronto

    Economic CTV News
    TORONTO - Sweet treat lovers near Toronto can now have their cheesecake and eat it too with the opening of Canada's first Cheesecake Factory location today. The U.S. restaurant chain, which serves dozens of different kinds of desserts, announced earlier this year that it would bring its restaurant to Toronto's Yorkdale Shopping Centre in the fall. Source
  • Meg Whitman steps down as HP Enterprise CEO

    Economic CBC News
    Meg Whitman is stepping down as the CEO of Hewlett Packard Enterprise. She'll be replaced by Antonio Neri, the company's president. Whitman became CEO of the former Hewlett-Packard Co. in 2011. That company split into two in 2015, with Whitman taking helm of HPE, which is focused on selling data-centre hardware and other commercial tech gear to other big organizations. Source
  • TransCanada says Keystone oil leak was a sudden, 'immediate' event

    Economic CTV News
    BRITTON, S.D. -- A TransCanada Corp. official says he believes an estimated 210,000-gallon oil leak discovered last week in South Dakota from the Keystone pipeline was a sudden and "immediate" event. The American News reports that Erik Tatarchuk, a TransCanada vice-president, said at a Marshall County Commission meeting Tuesday that it is unlikely oil leaked long enough to soak into the soil. Source
  • Canada 'prepared for the worst' amid squabbles over NAFTA, Freeland says

    Economic CBC News
    Despite making progress on "bread and butter" issues, Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland said differences remain between Canada and the U.S. on a number of key chapters of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Speaking to reporters as the fifth round of negotiations concluded in Mexico City, the Toronto-area minister said "significant" sticking points include the U.S. Source
  • TTC CEO Andy Byford leaving Toronto to head up New York City Transit

    Economic CTV News
    TORONTO -- The chief executive officer of Toronto's transit agency is leaving his post to take a job as president and CEO of New York City Transit. Andy Byford -- who announced his resignation Tuesday, six years after joining the Toronto Transit Commission -- will remain on the job until Dec. Source
  • NAFTA: Deadlock on hard issues as round concludes

    Economic CTV News
    MEXICO CITY -- Another round of NAFTA talks wrapped up with all key issues still deadlocked Tuesday as negotiators prepared to leave Mexico City with a plethora of question marks lingering over the trade deal. Source
  • Shareholders urge TransCanada to back Keystone XL despite risk

    Economic CBC News
    TransCanada Corp. should push ahead with a $10-billion Keystone XL pipeline expansion after the state of Nebraska on Monday approved a route that would raise the cost of the controversial project, some shareholders said. The approval quashed the last regulatory hurdle for the nearly decade-old project, but the Nebraska Public Service Commission denied TransCanada's preferred route. Source